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10/29/16 6:41pm
10/29/2016 6:41 PM

Riverhead football 102916

Three hours before kickoff time on Saturday, Harrison Downs received the word. Riverhead High School football coach Leif Shay pulled Downs aside and told him that he was the emergency backup quarterback that day.

Downs usually plays fullback or tight end on offense, but because one of Riverhead’s two quarterbacks was academically ineligible, he was next on the depth chart should anything happen to starter Kyle Kelly.


02/05/15 9:35pm
02/05/2015 9:35 PM
One of Riverhead's three seniors, Cassidy Brown, looks for shooting room while being guarded by Centereach's Alicia Indence. (Credit: Garret Meade)

One of Riverhead’s three seniors, Cassidy Brown, looks for shooting room while being guarded by Centereach’s Alicia Indence. (Credit: Garret Meade)


Senior Night is different. Senior Night is special. It’s not a typical game night, especially not if you’re one of the seniors being recognized.

As much as one may prepare for it, the emotions of the event can get the better of people. So when the Riverhead High School girls basketball coach, Dave Spinella, delivered heartfelt remarks about the three seniors on his team, tears flowed, with the notable exception being Amanda Baron, who has a reputation for being calm, cool and collected.

Starting with the team manager, senior Mieko Vail, Riverhead’s seniors were introduced by Spinella to the crowd during a pregame ceremony on Thursday night. Cassidy Brown, Baron and Joanna Messina took their turns listening to Spinella say some nice words about them. Then they hugged their coaches, were handed flowers and met their parents at center court for pictures.

Moments later, the Blue Waves went about another tradition: winning on Senior Night. (more…)

10/21/13 10:25pm
10/21/2013 10:25 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | After scoring Riverhead's fourth goal against Centereach, Jayson Set, left, is congratulated by Karol Birycki.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | After scoring Riverhead’s fourth goal against Centereach, Jayson Set, left, is congratulated by Karol Birycki.


As the Riverhead boys soccer team was putting the finishing touches to an impressive 4-0 victory over visiting Centereach on Monday, the sun set majestically in the west.

Blue Waves coach Lamine Traore fears the same could be said about his improved team as the regular season nears an end.

During the past several weeks, Riverhead has been among the hottest teams, going 5-1-1 in its last seven games. Unfortunately, that is not enough to boost the Blue Waves into the Suffolk County Class AA Tournament because teams need to finish .500 or higher in their league to qualify for the postseason.

The Blue Waves improved to 5-7-1 in League III and overall with the regular-season finale looming at West Islip on Wednesday.

“We deserve to make the playoffs,” said junior midfielder/forward Anthony Antunes, whose 10th-minute goal sparked the Blue Waves. “I was just told if we win on Wednesday, there might be a chance to go to the playoffs.”

Maybe, maybe not.

If the Blue Waves defeat West Islip and finish at 6-7-1, they could petition county soccer officials to enter the tournament based on their record and recent performances.

Traore admitted that he hadn’t thought of that possibility, but certainly wouldn’t dismiss it.

“If it’s possible, why not?” he said. “We have a shot. These are the teams. We can compete against them. If they need another team, I think we should be out there.”

Traore had no doubts about the great strides his team has made.

“Our program is different from other programs,” he said. “They are able to keep their players together almost the year round. We get the chance to get these kids about two months. To build a team, it takes more than two months. Since we have come here, the end of the season has been better for us. At the beginning, the chemistry is not there, the fitness is not there. As we go, the chemistry starts coming, the fitness gets along and we start battling against these teams.”

The Blue Waves put everything together Monday on both ends of the field against Centereach (2-13, 2-11). Kevin Elejalde, Jayson Set and Victor Guazhambo also scored and a solid defense helped goalkeeper Ryan DiResta (7 saves) recorded a clean sheet.

Traore said it was one of the best performances of the season, that a 1-1 tie with Smithtown West was No. 1. Smithtown West had several players on Smithtown Arsenal, which captured the under-16 boys national youth title this summer.

Afterwards Traore congratulated his players on another home victory and explained how they can translate that success to the road.

“The passion that we have here on our field, let’s see if we can have it on Wednesday when we are away,” he told his team. “You can make the away field your home field playing. Bring the same intensity, you will see how easy the game can be for you. Good job.”

The same could be said about how Riverhead scored its first goal. The Blue Waves cleared a corner kick. The ball came to Antunes and he bolted down the left side, from box to box before unleashing a 20-yard shot past goalkeeper Rob Retnauer to the lower right corner.

“All I saw was the goal,” Antunes said. “I had a couple of players in front of me. As soon as I passed the first one, I knew. All I knew I had an eye for goal. I was going straight for goal, no matter who was in my way.”

The goal lifted the Blues Waves’ spirits.

“It motivated us,” Elejalde said. “That’s why we won, 4-0. We played our game.”

It certainly motivated Elejalde, who headed home an 18-yard shot for a 2-0 lead with 21:34 remaining in the half.

With 12:57 left in the half, Guazhambo converted a rebound to raise the margin to 3-0 before Set closed out the scoring with 30:24 remaining in the game.

“We communicated well,” Elejalde said. “We made a lot of passes. We played beautiful. We should have played like this throughout the whole season. This was our best game, definitely.”

The Blue Waves hope to have a few more opportunities to duplicate that in the coming weeks.

09/23/13 7:20pm
09/23/2013 7:20 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Meagan Brunner of Riverhead dribbling into space during Tuesday's match against Centereach.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Meagan Brunner of Riverhead dribbling into space during Tuesday’s match against Centereach.


Carolyn Carrera is well aware that there are pluses to go with the obvious minuses of playing goalkeeper for a soccer team that is more likely to be the underdog than the favorite in its matches this season. For one thing, she knows she will see plenty of shots come her way, and she’s absolutely fine with that.

“I love the action,” she said.

In that sense, Carrera will not be disappointed. Riverhead’s senior captain and five-year starter has already faced a lot of shots.

Another plus is that Carrera can look at this season — and the strong teams the Blue Waves are facing in Suffolk County League III — as good preparation for when she plays for Hofstra University next year. The more shots she faces, the more experience she gets, the better she gets.

That’s one way to look at it.

Along with the decisiveness and focus that makes her a fine goalie, Carrera also has the drive to improve in what may be soccer’s most  complicated position. “Every single aspect I can always use improvement, just being quicker on my feet, quicker for the second shot, better kicks, better punts, just everything,” she said.

She said she loves the training, as well as the continual learning, the aggression and the adrenaline that comes with it all.

Riverhead’s former coach, Maria Dounelis, who brought Carrera onto the team as an eighth-grader, said she is the best goalkeeper in the team’s 11-year history.

The current Riverhead coach, Hassan Olowu, said, “She’s awesome.”

Centereach coach Andrew Nardi was tipped off before Monday’s league game in Riverhead that his team would be facing a talented goalkeeper. “I heard from other teams that their goalie is legit, and she proved it today,” he said.

Yet, not even Carrera was able to prevent a sharp-shooting Centereach team from striking for a 5-0 shutout. Nikki Ortega, a junior forward, was involved in four of those goals, scoring two and assisting on two. Monica Festa scored twice and Jessica Kraljic added a goal and an assist for the Cougars (5-3, 2-2).

Carrera really didn’t have much of a chance at stopping any of them.

“Those shots to the corner post were very tough to save, almost impossible to save,” said Nardi.

The first goal came 13 minutes into the match when a corner kick by Kraljic bounced in the penalty area and Ortega blasted it into the net.

“Amazing force and amazing accuracy,” Nardi said. “She can hit it.”

The next three goals came within 2:36 of each other late in the first half. Festa beat Carrera to her left, Kraljic connected on a booming blast over Carrera, and Festa, assisted by Alyssa Tatti, drilled a shot inside the far right post.

Ortega netted the fifth goal after a lead pass from Ryan Schubert in the 69th minute.

Centereach, which won only one game last year, has seen a dramatic turnaround. The Cougars have clearly solved their finishing problem of a year ago. They outshot the Blue Waves (1-3, 0-3) by 21-3 and enjoyed a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks.

Goalkeepers Analee Buscavino and Stephanie Maikisch needed to make only 1 save between them for the shared shutout.

Carrera showed her quality in the second half with a nice reflex save of a first-timer by Alexa Rudillosso. It was one of 4 saves by Carrera, who also knocked away two crosses, had 17 clearances and collected nine loose balls in her penalty area.

Monday’s game served as a reminder to Riverhead that League III is a world away from the developmental league it played in last year.

“I think we’re definitely the underdog when we’re put in a situation like this,” senior midfielder Emily Jehle said, “but you can’t underestimate us because we still got really good players on this team and, more than that, we have heart.”

Olowu said his players take steps forward with every game. “The tough thing is these losses don’t make it easy, but they never tell the whole story,” he said. “They don’t show the individual improvements of the player.”

Carrera’s improvement continues. A season-ending knee injury to the team’s only other goalie, Robyn Schneider, means that Carrera will see plenty of action the rest of the season.

“She does not stop,” Olowu said. “She competes no matter what the score is. She will make that really amazing save after letting in a couple of goals, and that’s character. You can’t buy that.”

Olowu said returning to the developmental league next year is an option to explore. Of course, by then, Carrera will have moved on and the Blue Waves will have a new player in goal.

“I am proud to say that I got to coach her,” Olowu said. “I’m going to miss her. She knows it.”

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02/15/13 2:14pm
02/15/2013 2:14 PM
Drive-by shooting suspects

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS | Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons and Jeffrey Despeine.

A mother sobbed in court as she watched her 21-year-old son, wearing a green jumpsuit with his hands cuffed in front of him, appear before a Riverhead judge Friday to answer to felony gun charges.

Her son, Jeffrey Despeines of Centereach, is one of four people accused of shooting up a Third Street house that was filled with adults and two small children Wednesday night.

A woman who identified herself as a close friend of another suspect, Jasmine Parsons, also sat in the audience.

“She’s a good person. She’s loving. She has a job,” the woman told a reporter. “She just got caught up in the wrong situation with the wrong people.”

Three of the four suspects, Mr. Despeines; Ms. Parsons, 19, of Mastic; and Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport; appeared in Town Justice Court for continued arraignment proceedings Friday, a day after bail was initially set for them Thursday.

The fourth suspect, Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford will be back in court Tuesday.

The three suspects were not required to enter a plea on their felony charges. A Suffolk County grand jury will be reviewing the case Tuesday, Feb. 19, prosecutors said.

Mr. Baldwin pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors said Mr. Despeines was the shooter in the drive-by, allegedly firing seven rounds into the two-family house. He was charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment, all felonies.

His bail, originally set at $250,000 cash or $750,000 bond on Thursday, was modified to $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond Friday after a lawyer argued on his behalf.

The court-appointed attorney, Carl Irace of East Hampton, said Mr. Despeines has no prior criminal record.

“He has a very concerned family, and a impeccable work record,” Mr. Irace told a reporter after court.

Mr. Baldwin was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony, for his alleged involvement in the shooting, along with the misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon charge because police say they found brass knuckles on him.

His lawyer told the judge Mr. Baldwin has “strong ties to the community” and works full-time at a thrift store

Mr. Baldwin was held on $100,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond. Justice Smith modified his bond to $200,000, leaving cash bail set at $100,000.

Assistant district attorney William Nash had argued the bail amounts set Thursday should stay in place, due to the charges’ “serious nature,” adding also that some of the suspects are believed to have gang affiliations.

Ms. Parsons’ waived her right to appear in court Friday, said her attorney, Daniel Barker of Riverhead, saying he wanted the opportunity to speak with Ms. Parsons in private first.

He did not ask for a bail modification.

Although all four suspects appeared in court Thursday, authorities had not yet found lawyers to represent all of them during the initial proceedings.

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